Week 5: Don't Hate the Player, Hate the Game

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Wednesday, July 1, 2015


Elias Kim

The weekend often provides a couple days of relaxation to recharge for the week ahead. For better or for worse, this anecdote did not remotely apply to mine. Arriving in NYC on Friday night, I spent the following 48 hours catching up with friends, exploring Brooklyn and Midtown, and eating a rather robust burger made of wild boar. It was undoubtedly a great time, but it also meant arriving back in Woodley Park at 1am on Sunday night. Sleep deprived and filled with caffeine, I began the week by attending a lecture by political blogger Ezra Klein. Klein talked about polarization in congress, and why the way it causes gridlock underlines problems with the structure of the U.S. legislative branch, not individual members. As he put it so eloquently, “Don’t hate the players, hate the game.” After that, the other interns from my office and I got a chance to talk with Rick Kessler, a senior staff member on the committee. Rick has a large breadth of experience in the political world, having been an integral part of redistricting efforts in New Jersey. He currently focuses on U.S. energy policy.

On Tuesday, I worked on some questions for the hearing on V2V that I had been assisting with for the past couple weeks. I focused on questions that would hopefully clarify the effects of new technology on driving behavior, particularly the tendency to take risky actions. I then went with the other interns over to the House floor, where two of our committee’s bills were set to be voted on. The first was the DotCom act, which was put through with almost no discussion; as I’ve learned this summer, many times actions are taken because they are required as formalities, not necessities. The second, the TSCA Modernization act, underwent more discussion but also passed the House fairly easily. That night, I went to play soccer only to be caught in DC’s best impression of the East Khasi Hills; I quickly made my way back home.

I attended another hearing on Positive Train Control, this one taking place in front of the House Transportation committee. It was interesting to hear the differences between this hearing and the previous one I had attended in the Senate, as well as the updates that had taken place in the time between the two. After work, I went with the SPS interns to my second Nationals game of the summer, this one against the Braves. Ian Desmond hit a sacrifice fly in extra innings to win the game for the Nationals!

Thursday was perhaps the biggest day of my summer/life, as I achieved CSPAN fame sitting behind the congressmen at the V2V hearing. All jokes aside, it was a funny moment to see myself appear on TV; I tried to remain as deadpan as possible, lest I end up the butt of an SNL joke skit. One of my friends working for a lobbying firm was actually tasked with watching the hearing and saw me on the live stream! The V2V hearing itself was very interesting, with different stakeholders weighing in to voice their concerns and provide the committee with information. Later that day, Drew and I attended a reception on the Hill by NASA. There were several exhibits about life in space and technology that will support it. Most exciting, Drew and I got to meet Charles Bolden, famous astronaut and current director of NASA!

Elias Kim